Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wisconsin Transportation

I was hired and moved here to Wisconsin to work on the redesign of the Zoo interchange.  That's the freeway interchange in the Northwest corner of Milwaukee and it happens to be the busiest and most dangerous (by crashes per year) interchange in the state of Wisconsin.  The overall budget (originally) for the project is 1.6 billion dollar but now there's talk of it changing.

Can we get the money to fully finance this, or does it need to take a hit?  First, let's take a look at a few numbers put together by the WTBA:

That's the price of operating a "2013 vehicle valued at $25,000 and weight 3,000 pounds being registered for the first time.  15,000 miles driven at 22 mpg (682 gallons/year) with fuel at $3.30/gallon".  (Note that toll roads and bridges are not included in this, and Wisconsin is one of the two states shown which has no toll roads or bridges)

The Governor plans to switch over to a "vehicle miles traveled" payment system.  Basically you just report how many miles you put on your car and pay accordingly.  In my mind, this is a terrible plan.  It means no or little revenue comes in from those who do not live or register in the state but do drive through it.  It means no or little advantages for those who own and operate fuel efficient cars, it means the revenue is sporadic (yearly) instead of constant (every time you fill up a tank).  It means a whole other system of reporting beyond what we have now.  However, many on the others at the state house would like to just see transportation funding stay where it is.

Well forgetting the fact that infrastructure spending is one of the most efficient government stimuli, Wisconsin would go from having 20% of the state highway in poor or worse condition in 2014 to 42% in same by 2023.  Safety would decrease, a road system already struggling to keep up with the greater capacity demands would become much further outdated, and it's all totally unnecessary.

Politically I imagine it would be much easier to maintain or even decrease fuel tax and then jack-up registration fees.  I would much prefer to see fuel tax increase as it that just makes infinitely more sense from every perspective but I know that's a harder sell.  But however we do it, the current budget submitted for transportation in Wisconsin is foolish.  Why are we cutting spending now?  Why did we decide to do so in one of the most important areas the government actually gets involved in.  If you ask anyone for an example of good, government services even most libertarian will lead with "roads and bridges".  Maybe we should ask the state to keep that promise.

1 comment:

  1. The "miles driven" tax is the stupidest, stupidest idea EVER. Heck, half the miles we put on our cars aren't driven in Wisconsin.